Veteran historian Hastings recounts the British action during World War II to save its troops from starvation on Malta, where the British lost their advantage in 1942. Over twelve days in August, German and Italian forces faced off against British air and naval fleets in one of the fiercest battles of the war, while ships packed with supplies were painstakingly divided and dispersed.
Crosscuts between London and the convoy are thankfully kept to a minimum as Mr. Hastings focuses on the hazards, mundane and terrifying, of naval warfare ... Like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings,Operation Pedestal is the story of desperate warriors shepherding a frail cargo through all the fire and steel their enemy can hurl. Mr. Hastings paints a portrait of naval combat with an artist’s brush guided by more than a half-century of combat reportage. Compassionate toward men who braved bombs, torpedoes, fire and a cruel sea, he showcases the Royal Navy—along with the merchant vessels it guarded—at its finest hour.
The immediacy of this book obliterates the cold detachment that time’s passage usually allows. We feel in our bones torpedoes hitting home. Hastings takes his readers into the bomb-blasted wardroom of the carrier Indomitable ... Given the dramatic quality of this book, it seems wrong to summarise the four-day ordeal British sailors endured. That would spoil the impact of a drama superbly told ... The delight lies in the detail, the percussive power of tiny facts ... All this detail renders these men appropriately human. That’s the way war should be told, but so often it isn’t.
... [a] white-knuckle ride ... gripping narrative ... high-octane adventure ... Hastings’s four-day tableaux of bloodshed is not for the faint-hearted. There’s the memorable account of Giacomo Metelline, gaping in horror when he went to the rescue of a fellow airman ... As for winners and losers, Hastings ends his highly readable book with the apposite question of whether Operation Pedestal was worth the loss of 13 ships, 34 planes and some 500 men.